There is nothing sweeter than reading a beautiful story to a wide-eyed child, who hangs on your every word because the story is just THAT captivating.
When my own children were little, we used the Five in a Row curriculum, which provided regular experiences with beautiful children's literature. Those days were full of wonder, creativity, and relaxation.
Now that my children are older I get my "little kid fix" through tutoring the Abecedarians (in our case that means the 5-7 year olds) in Classical Conversations. I'm looking forward to sharing some of our adventures with you - and one of those is a recent science and art activity with the FIAR title, Miss Rumphius.
There is so much truth in that one simple statement. When we educate our children at home we have a multitude of opportunities to expose them to BEAUTY. It is my goal to make education beautiful and meaningful - not only for my own children, but also for other children I am lucky enough to work with along the way.
Setting the Stage: Miss Rumphius
Miss Rumphius longs to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and make the world more beautiful. I introduced this book to the children by telling them the author and illustrator were the same person (which is not very common), and also that I wanted them to watch for the illustrations of flowers throughout the book.
I speak in a quiet voice and encourage the children to keep their eyes open for anything that strikes them as beautiful as I'm reading the book.
I also explained to them that Miss Rumphius was called "The Lupine Lady" - Lupines (a member of the pea family) are beautiful flowers that attract butterflies.
Right away we've already learned so much BEFORE we ever start reading the book:
- what an author and illustrator mean
- what Lupines are
- a little bit about Lupine taxonomy
- attention to BEAUTY
SIMPLE Activities with Miss Rumphius
In keeping with the Classical model, I wanted this activity to be simple and low stress - requiring just the book, paper, pencils, and a few fresh flowers.
*This activity can be used with a group of children or just one - it's very simple and effective.
While I was reading the story I stopped periodically and asked questions to check comprehension. There's always a few in a group that need to be led along while listening!
When I finished reading, I asked the children to talk to me about the book - What did they like? Did they spot anything beautiful?
I am always amazed (although I shouldn't be) by some of their observations:
- "The lady who drew the pictures really knew how to dry skies good."
- "Didn't Miss Rumphius ever get married?"
- "Can we plant Lupine seeds next week?"
- "I think she DID make the world more beautiful."
Don't you love it?
Botany, Art, Music, Linnaeus & Miss Rumphius
Using Discovering Great Artists as our guide, I read to the children about Carl Linnaeus - a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist.
I told them Linnaeus was most well known for his system of classifying animals, but today we were going to focus on him as an ARTIST and BOTANIST. Linnaeus would observe plants and then sketch them.
So, to be just like Linnaeus, we pretended we were botanists, too.
I provided the children with a few actual flowers, which I laid down in front of them, and also with some flower field guides.
Miss Rumphius was also put front and center so they could look at how the author/illustrator drew the Lupines, too.
This was very open-ended - the children were free to choose what flowers they wanted to draw and if they wanted to look at the real flowers, field guides, or storybook. Kids like choices and this was such an easy one to give them.
While they were sketching I had music by Bach playing in the background, and several of the kids remarked how nice it was to have the "pretty music" (This also helps to keep them from talking too much, because when they were sketching I asked that they be quiet and thoughtful).
We sketched for about 15 minutes, then shared our drawings.
I think the children left with an understanding of Linnaeus, Botany, and so much more.
More importantly, I believe they had the opportunity to slow down and CREATE something of beauty, to listen to a beautiful story, and to be quiet with their own thoughts and ideas.
This is a gift we can give to our children on a daily basis if we are intentional.
Extension Ideas for Miss Rumphius
If you want to extend learning beyond this, I've come up with a few ideas for you. (If I had my own little ones right now this is what I WOULD DO!)
Have a Book Dinner
One of our favorite things was to read a book and then host a "book dinner" for extended family. We would make a themed recipe, our own table decorations, and read the book at dinner. It was so much fun! (We did this once with Lentil and created a fabulous memory!)
You can get many ideas from the Five in a Row volume Miss Rumphius is featured in.
More Extension Ideas
- Lapbook and Notebooking with Miss Rumphius from Homeschool Share (GREAT resource!)
- A Discussion Guide for the Book -- very thoughtful questions here
- Sow your own Lupine Wildflower Seeds
- Some kids love more "guided" drawing -- here are some flower drawing tutorials
- Dover's How to Draw Flowers is a great introductory book
- More complex plant drawing lessons -- good for older siblings!
- Make Tropical Chicken Quesadillas
- Read Linnaeus: Genius of Classification
- Read other books by Barbara Cooney (listed below)
- Follow along with the Audio Book (video below)
Miss Rumphius Audio Book
Miss Rumphius Resources & Books by Barbara Cooney
Following are resources used with Miss Rumphius, as well as other books that have been authored and/or illustrated by Barbara Cooney.
Wouldn't a Barbara Cooney author month be fun??
When it is all said and done, an activity children will always remember that has cultivated beauty is a winner in my book.
I think the smile says it all: